Once Were Hunters – Now Conservationists

An ibex inside the protected area constructed with UNDP support in Kabul’s Khak Jabar District. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / Farhad Zalmai / 2016.

17 March 2016, Kabul – Daud killed his first ibex when he was only 12 years old. His father would wake him up in the middle of the night to go hunting, and they’d set out together in the dark, Daud so afraid that his hands would shake. Later on, he’d learn to kill with calm efficiency.

This was just how things were in Daud’s small village, slightly east of Kabul; and how they had been for generations. The ibex were everywhere. And they were delicious. And they made great hats. And they were so easy to hunt that even a small boy with shaking hands could bag one. So everybody did.

Highlights

  • In a small village near Kabul, the ibex population had been hunted almost to extinction.
  • UNDP brought together local people and community elders to make a safe space where the ibex could live and breed in peace.
  • They fenced off 20,000 square meters and agreed a ban on hunting.
  • When the ibex population recovers, the animals will attract weekend tourists from Kabul, bringing new jobs and income.

But eventually, the ibex started to disappear. What had been herds became small groups, and as numbers dwindled, it became clear that without action, these endangered creatures would disappear from Afghanistan entirely.

So UNDP stepped in. With funding from the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme, and implementation on the ground by the Liaison Office, we brought together local people and community elders to make a safe space where the ibex could live and breed in peace.

Villagers fenced off 20,000 square meters for the protected area and convened meetings where they agreed to a ban on hunting. They even selected a local man, Sakhi Dad, to guard the ibex enclosure.

 Community elders support the protection of endangered deer in Kabul’s Khak Jabar. “Ibex used to live here but indiscriminate hunters killed them off,” says Alam Khan, local community elder. “Now district elders have agreed to enforce a ban on hunting.”

“Before this, I loaded trucks with heavy stones for a living,” explains Sakhi. “That job was really difficult and quite risky. But now, I enjoy working as a guard for the ibex project. It’s safe and I earn enough to support my family.”

The plan is that as the ibex population recovers, they will become a tourist attraction for families from nearby Kabul, creating new jobs and sources of income for local people, who are already starting to view the animals differently.

“They look so innocent, grazing in the fenced off area – like the children in our family,” says Daud. “Now I feel bad that I used to hunt them. As their numbers grow, this area will be beautiful again.”

 

UNDP-GEF SGP has awarded 46 grants in Afghanistan for projects on biodiversity, climate change mitigation, the prevention of land degradation and sustainable forest management. Of these, 15 completed projects have already improved the environment for nearly 50,000 households around the country.

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